Missing Persons Clearinghouse
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Working With Your Kids - Basic Rules

Follow the golden rule of cyberspace: Don’t do anything online that you wouldn’t do in real life!

  • Often anyone can read what you post online… you just may not realize it.
  • Even information provided to a friend can be circulated without your knowledge/consent.
  • Avoid spreading rumors, assisting in cyberbullying or sharing private communications online.
    (Think about how you would feel!)

“You can’t judge a book by it’s cover” … and you can’t judge people by their online portrayals. People that you meet online may not be who they say they are.

Do not give out personal information. Unless you know someone personally, DO NOT provide:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your telephone number (home or cell)
  • Your age
  • Your school name
  • Photographs or videos
  • Information about family members or friends
  • Your email address(es), screen names (IM and chat)

Never give out the following information, even to people that you do know:

  • Credit card, checking account and calling card numbers
  • Social security numbers
  • Passwords and PINs

Do not complete online forms or questionnaires.

Do not order, purchase or sell anything online without discussing with parents first.

Never agree to meet an “online friend.”

  • Unless you really know the person, an online friend is a stranger who has walked into your life through a telephone line, high speed cable or a wireless connection
  • If you feel that it is appropriate to meet with someone, discuss it with your parents first – no exceptions
  • Understand that if everyone agrees, it will require meeting in a familiar public place – with a parent present.

Visit NetSmartz.org to view "Amy's Choice," the true story of a 15-year-old girl who left home to meet in person with a man she first "met" online. Here you can also read Read "Amy's Story" — the story from her mother's perspective.

Sooner or later, you will receive inappropriate information. When this happens:

  • Do not respond to these messages; doing so often serves as a source of encouragement.
  • Keep a record events, including dates and times, as they are needed if formal action has to be taken.
  • Whenever possible, print and then close disturbing messages, but do not delete them.
  • Discuss concerns with a parent or other adult immediately.

“Viruses” and spyware are ever present. While anti-virus and spyware software helps, there is no way to eliminate these risks:

  • Use caution when visiting websites with questionable integrity, downloading programs and opening e-mail - even from friends!
  • If at all unsure … don’t open e-mail or download files.

It is important to understand and abide by all expectations and ground rules established by parents. Ground rules may include such things as: when you can go online, how long you can go online, and what activities you can do online.

  • Violating the rules usually results in consequences and even worse harms trust; “trust, like fine china, once broken can be repaired, but it is never quite the same.”
  • If you believe changes are warranted, discuss them with parents, don't assume that it is OK to make changes without conversing.
  • Communicating with your parents does not mean that you have to give up your privacy. It just means that you have to come to a mutual agreement based upon trust and understanding.

“Stealing isn’t learning.”

  • Information is so easy to get online that it is tempting to just copy it and paste it into a report.
    The legal and ethical pitfalls of plagiarism are very serious.
  • Use information obtained online for reference purposes and to develop your own thoughts.
  • Never give up your integrity or your opportunities to learn by engaging in plagiarism.

“Find the needles of truth in the haystack.”

  • Anybody can say anything online. Even unreliable, incorrect and misleading information can be made to look “official”. Picture of icy conditions road sign
  • It’s up to you to discern the good from the bad.
  • Ask yourself these questions…
    • Who is saying the site reliable?
    • What do they have to gain by saying this?
    • Are there places where I can check this out?